Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Awe-Inspiring Power of Ideas

By Chris Rossini

Libertarians have all likely heard about the power of ideas. Those who are new to the liberty movement will recall Ron Paul describe it like so:
“Ideas are very important to the shaping of society. In fact, they are more powerful than bombings or armies or guns. And this is because ideas are capable of spreading without limit. They are behind all the choices we make. They can transform the world in a way that governments and armies cannot. Fighting for liberty with ideas makes more sense to me than fighting with guns or politics or political power. With ideas, we can make real change that lasts.” (from Dr. Paul's book Liberty Defined)
It's definitely comforting to read or hear such words. It breathes life into the fact that no matter how dark the clouds of  the State become, Liberty still has a very good fighting chance.

However, there might still exist some lingering doubts in the back of your mind. Thoughts like "Yeah, ideas are great, but look how big government has become. It's the biggest government in the history of the world." Or "The government covers the world with their bases and troops. How can the ideas of Liberty be more powerful than that?"

Well, hopefully the following will help to erase those doubts.

You see, the U.S. Empire, while definitely the largest that the world has ever seen, is not the only Empire to exist in man's history. In fact, the story of World Empires is one of perfect failure. They come into existence, overextend, face reality, and vanish. Reality has a built-in anti-Empire panacea. It's called economics. Empires cannot conquer economics no matter how hard they try.

Now, prior to the U.S. Empire, there existed the British Empire. It's very ironic that the former would follow the latter, because the American colonies seceded from the British Empire. At the time, the British Empire was the biggest that the world had ever seen. And yet, inspired by the ideas of Liberty, the secession of the puny colonies occurred.

You may think: "Ok, but was it really the power of ideas that were the driving force?" And the answer is: YES.

Something very significant was said on May 30th 1777, after the war was well underway. Lord Chatham spoke in England's House of Lords and said:
“We called them rebels, but they were only defending their unquestionable rights. Nor could we in any case conquer them – it was impossible. (my emphasis)
Think about the gravity of what Chatham was saying there. The British Empire, the largest ever, which had just conquered France all over the globe, would not conquer 13 outpost American colonies. Chatham said it would be "impossible"! He understood very well the ideas that were animating the colonists.

In true Empire form, King George III thought Chatham was off his rocker, saying: "thank God the Nation does not see the unhappy Contest through [Chatham’s] mirror. If his sentiments were adopted, I should not esteem the situation in this country a very dignified one, for the Islands would soon cast off all obedience.” Surely, King George had his brand of neocon warmongering advisors around him, and they were not about to lose their dignity.

But they did.

Chatham was right. It's impossible to conquer the ideology of Liberty.

This historical example of the power of ideas does not imply that there must be an armed revolution for Liberty to succeed. This author is 100% against such a horrendous idea. Violence is the forte of government. Liberty is peaceful.

In fact, this author is in agreement with Lew Rockwell in believing that the American colonists chose the wrong means in accomplishing their goal. They should have seceded peacefully.

Rockwell says:
“It took me a while, despite my Loyalist ancestors, to come to the same conclusion about the Revolutionary War. It was unnecessary, like the rest of our wars. For example, the king–a sweetheart compared to almost any US president–would have conceded internal independence to the 13 colonies, so long as they remained officially British. And as the examples of Australia and Canada show, with British colonies that became peacefully independent, there is far more decentralism than in the US, and far less militarism and belligerent nationalism."
The mentality of war can only be detrimental to the cause of Liberty. Just look at who was elected the first President of the United States - a "war hero". Look at what has happened since....

Perhaps the last 238 years are to act as a giant lesson for those who desire Liberty - that it must be born and cultivated in an environment of Peace if it is to last. Such an environment can exist anywhere and at any time. It exists right where you are, and right where I am.

Peacefully sharing ideas. One mind to another. No guns.

If, in that way, the ideas of Liberty reach a critical mass - its power would be awe-inspiring.

Chris Rossini is on Twitter


  1. What about all the people who hear a good explanation of libertarianism but reject it anyway?

    1. All I know to do is to 'move on'. (includes Family, too... sadly.) Some tinder just isn't dry enough to spark those brush fires.

  2. FYI, I feel the same way. Those who wish for true liberty and the "animating contest of freedom" cannot emulate the state and use violence to get their way. Violence does not win the hearts and minds. Countering the state propaganda with facts and truth, along with presenting the reality of what liberty and free-markets provide is the only way to counter the state's monopoly use of force.

    The following is a story of the "Three Percenters" during the revolutionary war. I give it not because of the example of how many actual colonists it took to win the revolutionary war, because that is distorted due to the involvement of the French. I give it as an indication of what percentage of the population needs to be of the same mindset for change, and how a good amount of the population will just bend to whatever winds that prevail. A small minority of people dedicated to the principles of liberty using peaceful means to educate the population could change the course of our country for the better.

    "During the American Revolution, the active forces in the field against the King's tyranny never amounted to more than 3% of the colonists. They were in turn actively supported by perhaps 10% of the population. In addition to these revolutionaries were perhaps another 20% who favored their cause but did little or nothing to support it. Another one-third of the population sided with the King (by the end of the war there were actually more Americans fighting FOR the King than there were in the field against him) and the final third took no side, blew with the wind and took what came." --

    Lastly, never think we can reform our government in DC. I just returned back from a trip that entailed 5 days of "sight-seeing" there.

    Looking at DC as an objective "outsider," I saw an institution surrounded by Greco-Roman temples of worship to the state in order to perpetuate a myth. The only thing different between this and what we learn about in history is that our gods are state institutions and actors.

    One example, if you haven't seen it, is the Jefferson Memorial (my family knows I am unwilling to set foot on Lincoln's). On the walls surrounding his statue are requests for quiet out of respect. This is in order to create an air of reverence. Anyone who has studied Jefferson historically knows that he would have not only found his memorial a huge waste of money, it is an anathema to his views on liberty and government.

    Surrounding our Institutional Gods of the State are more institutions in very expensive buildings that were created for the sole reason of influencing their gods to send a lot more wealth their way at the expense of us, the taxpayer. The expanse of Labor Union institutions surrounding the National Mall was astounding. You want to know where your tax money is going? Just take a walk around DC's National Mall area within a 10-Block radius. My guess is the names on those buildings will get you ~50%+ of the Federal Budget. The Pentagon is just a 15 minute subway ride away, and that will get you another substantial chunk of the budget.

    Doubt it? Try having lunch at Old Ebbitt Grill or The Hamilton or any other eatery in the area during the work week and listen in on the conversations around you. 100% of them were about some deal trying to be struck with some element of the government for millions of dollars of the taxpayer's money. It was an eye-opening and astounding experience.

    Anyone interested in small government and liberty really should take the time to visit DC. You really can't grasp the reality of it all until you see it with your own eyes.

    Anyway you look at it DC is a modern living repeat of the Roman Empire. You can't reform it. It's going to have to topple from it's own weight.

    1. Thank you Cory for your astute observations.

      And thank you Chris for your insights on the non-violent alternative...very well said and very encouraging. It puts heart in a man!

  3. With all due respect to Mr Rossini, "peace" is a two-way street. I'd love for my county to secede from the state, and from the "federal" government, and ideally, a simple non-violent declaration is all that should be required. But assuming they do not acknowledge the legitimacy of the move, assuming they attempt to use force to maintain their supposed authority, that puts the new independents in the position of defending themselves (probably with violence).

    Additionally, how does one wage a battle of ideas against the obviously fallacious premise that for a secession to be legitimate, the entity being seceded FROM must agree to it?